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February 27, 2023
Even Valentines Day has got a royal twist this year: an exquisite heart-shaped pendant, weighing in at a healthy 300 grams of 24-carat gold, has turned up in an English field. Not only does it date from Henry VIII”s time, but it’s also decorated with the royal Tudor rose and pomegranate – the emblem of his Spanish queen, Katharine of Aragon. The British Museum is said to be stunned. This discovery outshines all the other precious things in its Tudor collection.
Jewellery, chocolates and flowers are traditional ways of celebrating Valentine’s Day. But love comes in many shapes and ages, and while some couples long for a romantic escape in a 4 star hotel in London, others favour a family-friendly stay in a great hotel over half term.
There are as many ways of celebrating February 14th as there are people. From afternoon tea to candlelit dinners, from a night at the opera to queuing for the cinema. London offers the traditional and the off-beat.
There are also quite a few platonic options – a girls’ night out, a group of friends opting for a staycation in cosmopolitan central London. The chance just to explore a great city in good company.
In the Mood
There’s no doubt that the right setting can help break the ice on a first date or remind veteran lovers of how much there is to celebrate. Below is a variety of bars, cafes and even an immersive experience and a cinema season that might appeal. The options range from the sumptuous to the last minute (as well as the eccentric). After all, those unguarded moments can be quite telling. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to explore the excellent London hotel offers this February.
Victorian Bath House Cocktail Bar
Bishopsgate Courtyard, EC2
Intriguing and sumptuous Turkish delight of a bar near Liverpool Street Station. The entrance is tiny, but beneath the pavement lies a huge, ceramic–and–gold Victorian bathhouse that has been turned into a cocktail bar, yet still oozes 19th-century, orientalist grandeur. Impressive surroundings to kick off a date night.
Bob Bob Ricard
Upper James Street, Soho, W1
Champagne at the press of a button. French-inspired and modern British cuisine, extravagant decor. Cocktails. All–booth dining.
Duck and Waffle
40th floor, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2
24 hour dining for every occasion and those last-minute, out-of-hours dates. Early or late, sweet and savoury waffles, protein bowls, or a full English breakfast. British and European menus are on offer in the restaurant, plus cocktails, and views across the city.
La Goccia Bar
1 Floral Street, WC2
Say it with flowers? La Goccia in Covent Garden offers a cocktail list inspired by seasonal fruits, herbs and edible flowers and brought to you by Petersham Nurseries. Ideal for the botanically curious.
Love at Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Catherine Street, Covent Garden, WC2
Enjoy a Valentine’s Day afternoon tea in The Grand Saloon at The Lane, the beautifully restored tearooms at one of London’s oldest theatres, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. This is where one of London’s most famous love affairs began – between comedy actress Nell Gwynn and King Charles II, who was personally responsible for the re-opening of the theatres after they had been banned during Cromwell’s Puritan rule. It was Nell’s delivery of a speech by Dryden that reduced the king to helpless laughter – and love. The king had many mistresses, but Nell was a keeper.
Message in a Bottle
Tower Suites, 100 Minories, EC3
Flower power: a terrarium flower arranging workshop for lovers. Why? Because you’ll make a self–sustaining mini landscape to take home (that’s the message). Sip chilled Prosecco and dine Italian–style too, all within a few steps of the famous Tower of London. Combine flower power with an overnight stay in a luxury suite:
Thames Rockets Speedboat Tour
Boarding Gate 1, The London Eye Pier
Romance for thrill seekers. This is a high speed ride along the Thames on a rigid inflatable boat, lasting between 50 to 80 minutes. And however hot-blooded you are, it’s February. Wrap up warm.
Valentines at The PCC
Prince Charles Cinema
From February 8–14
If you are quick you can catch the 3.30 pm screening of “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck (Feb 8, all-time classic Romantic movie) plus the achingly gorgeous, lovelorn “In the Mood for Love” by Wong Kar Wai. (Feb 10–14) and “Casablanca” (Feb 12). Also Tony Scott’s True Romance (Feb 10, 11, 14 and 16) and Valley Girl by Martha Coolidge (Feb 9). Not to mention “Amelie” (Feb 11 and 14); the Irish hit, “Once” (Feb 12) and the hilarious bromance “Hot Fuzz” (Feb 14 and 22). There is more. Check it out…
London is famous for its museums and theatres, its writers and art galleries. Listen to a string quartet in a church dedicated to Britain’s actors, or dine in the oldest restaurant in London where Charles Dickens regularly sat down to eat. Immerse yourself in another silent disco at the Natural History Museum this Valentine’s Day, or enjoy Gainsborough’s famous portraits in the National Gallery (and work out which ones he painted for money, and which for love). Allow yourself to be looked after by one of the best hotels in London England.
Love Songs by Candlelight
The Actor’s Church
Bedford Street, Covent Garden, WC2
Candlelit love songs in Covent Garden’s St Paul’s Church (aka The Actor’s Church), designed by Inigo Jones. Music performed by an award-winning string quartet, featuring pop ballads, themes from romantic musical theatre and soulful songs.
Leadenhall Building, West Entrance
Until 10 February
An iridescent art installation consisting of a cluster of gigantic bubbles. The enormous glistening bubbles by Atelier Sisu, are more than seven metres in height. Open between noon and 10 pm and free to visit.
Trafalgar Square, WC2
The National Gallery is free, and if you only get as far as the steps to look down on Trafalgar Square and Whitehall beyond that, it’s worth the effort. But if you’re interested in the many faces of love, look for “Mrs Siddons” by Thomas Gainsborough in Room 34. The greatest actress of her day, this portrait was not painted for money, but because Gainsborough admired the sitter. Siddons came from humble beginnings, like him, and both of them achieved fame through their efforts. “The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly” is also by Gainsborough and is in Room 34.
Royal Afternoon Tea
A Royal Staycation
Traditional finger sandwiches and pastries, luscious scones, clotted cream and jam plus a surprising range of teas. A right royal tradition by the Tower of London. Alternatively, allow yourself to be treated like a King (or Queen) in a luxury suite, overlooking His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. Chilled champagne, massage and manicure, as well as a royal-themed afternoon tea. Dinner for two overlooking His Majesty’s best-preserved fortress. Two night stay for two.
Valentines at the Museum
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, SW7
London’s famous, gorgeous Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Two unusual Valentine's events this February. First, the Silent Disco (headphones, full bar, three DJs) and After Hours viewing ticket. This comprises a free drink and entry at 7.30 pm, when you can take a look at the new Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and then throw some shapes under Hope the blue whale, from 9.30 pm-midnight. Second, you can join the museum’s scientists to explore how animals fall in love, then grab a cocktail, and look at the Wildlife Photography exhibition.
Room with a View
Restaurant St Barts
Bartholomew Cl, EC1
Overlooking the historic Church of St Bartholomew the Great near Smithfield. The menu is dedicated to British produce and farmers, and the 15 course tasting menu is at the heart of this offering from the trio behind Hackney’s NEST and Fulham’s FENN. Also a 6-course lunch menu. Soft lighting and wooden furnishings.
The Market Building, WC2
London Heron Tower, Bishopsgate, EC2
Choose from the Covent Garden venue, or high up in the City’s Heron Tower. Signature blend of cuisines from Peru, Brazil and Japan. Ever popular.
Royal Time at the Tower
100 Minories, EC3
If you’re looking for a Tower hotel London during St Valentine’s season, complete with great views from an apartment suite, riverside walks and a medieval Royal Fortress to explore, then the contemporary elegance afforded by Tower Suites is for you.
Saint Valentine’s Half Term
Crystal Maze Live Experience
Shaftesbury Avenue, W1
75 minutes of frantic team fun. Open to ages 9 and over (accompanied). Score as many points and get as much time in the Crystal Dome as possible. Four different zones, mental and physical challenges, and puzzles to solve.
Old Brompton Road, SW7
The “interactive museum” combines media, technology and old–fashioned pillow fights. Go there with the kids during the day and visit infinity rooms, a mirrored maze of interactive steppingstones, a digital forest, and even a popcorn room. South Kensington tube, so all the famous London Museums are close by too.
London Transport Museum
Various venues and
Covent Garden Piazza, WC2
New tours of the underground system beneath London’s streets have been announced. Above ground, there’s a “Secrets of Central London” walking tour (11 Feb to 25 March) to uncover “untold secrets” of Covent Garden; on Valentine’s Day itself, you can discover unexplored parts of Aldwych station, a place with many secret histories – also a popular filming location. Virtual tours as well.
The Gunpowder Plot
Tower Vaults, Tower Hill, EC3
Until 31 March
The plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 goes for the big–budget immersive theatre treatment – to good effect (live actors and VR). Using some of the best names, including writer Danny Robins (of “The Battersea Poltergeist” and “2:22 – A Ghost Story”). Revisit the complex class and religious conflict of Jacobean England. Impressive and thoughtful.
Staycations for all the Family
The right hotel for you and your family this half term. World heritage sites and iconic landmarks on your doorstep, Italian dinner for two adults and two children (kids eat for free) and a family pizza-making class.
Valentine’s Day Chocolate Making
Chelsea Physic Garden, Royal Hospital Road, SW3
Something for the family: a chocolate making workshop on February 14th, 10 am–12 pm and 2 pm–4 pm. For children aged 5 and up. Find out how chocolate is grown and make your chocolate treats as well as experiment with botanical ingredients. Explore the delightful garden or the Cafe. Closes at 4 pm.
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